Resilience to Turbulence: How to Keep Going in Uncertain Times


Interview with Petra Jenner, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Splunk

Recently, dramatic events like pandemics and wars have prompted business minds to focus on building resilience. But where is this elusive commodity to be found? Is it in a company’s data? Or is it in its employees? Correct, says Petra Jenner of enterprise resilience experts Splunk. 

Can you tell us about your journey and experience that led you to your current position as Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Splunk?

With a career that spans over 25 years, I’ve had the privilege of holding various leadership positions in technology. Immediately prior to Splunk, I was an EMEA leader for six years at Salesforce. As a General Manager and Senior Vice President for EMEA Central & Eastern Europe, I proudly took on the role of executive sponsor of the “Bring Women Back to Work” programme, which helped women in returning to work after parental leave. Prior to this, I was CEO for Microsoft in Switzerland.

What has excited me most about my career is being part of companies undergoing complex digital transformation projects, scaling teams across markets to help drive these initiatives forward.  

People are the heart of an organisation, but data is the lifeblood of what makes an organisation resilient. It has the potential to inform stakeholders, policymakers, and leaders in a way that previously hasn’t been possible. By understanding the value of people and data, organisations can thrive in the face of challenges.  

This led me to my current role at enterprise software company Splunk, where, a year into the job as Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA, my responsibility is to use data to help our customers become digitally resilient and shape the region’s next chapter. 

As a leader, how do you prioritise building resilience within an organisation? 
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of many businesses. Workplaces have changed significantly as this, and other factors, have driven more value into the digital realm. This, in turn, increased the importance of reducing downtime and tracking digital infrastructure to keep digital operations running smoothly. This is Splunk’s stock-in-trade.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of many businesses. Workplaces have changed significantly as this, and other factors, have driven more value into the digital realm.

Now, we find ourselves at another inflection point. In the midst of continuing digitisation, we’re in the middle of a digital skills shortage. Today, when thinking about organisational resilience, I believe businesses must now put an increasing focus on the people who make their business succeed. Businesses need to shift from seeing empathy as a “soft” leadership trait and, instead, prioritise higher levels of employee engagement as one of the most important threads of management in order to drive their businesses forward.

How can bold and resilient leadership contribute to an organisation’s survival and success, particularly after times of crisis?  

As the recovery begins to emerge, you will need to determine where to invest managerial energy and resources – innovation for growth, strategic direction, new customers, or new business models? Clear measures and decisive actions build optimism and confidence. Pursuing the right opportunities will inspire people, and your actions and words will align the minds, physical energy, and the hearts and souls of the people around you. Your presence on the front line is also important in creating momentum, and transforming concern into confidence. I believe that a leader needs to show a path forward that is credible and concrete, and enrol the “change agents” in the organisation who are empowered to execute on the tough decisions without sacrificing values.  

You mentioned that technology failures often stem from not having the right people on the project. How do you ensure you have the right team in place to drive successful technology initiatives? 

When it comes to developing a successful IT strategy, people are at the heart of any product, solution, or service. If you don’t have the right people in place to bring all those elements together and help to evolve your processes in the future, it’s unlikely your IT strategy will ever get off the ground.

Unfortunately, the growing IT skills gap makes it increasingly difficult for decision makers to staff their departments with the necessary talent. A 2022 policy brief from the Foundation for European Progressive Studies mentions that 58 per cent of European businesses are finding it hard to recruit ICT specialists, and that there will be a shortfall of eight million IT workers across Europe by 2030. And even businesses that manage to source the employees they need may have trouble establishing the appropriate internal culture, failing to encourage fresh thinking and keep employees properly motivated.

Today’s macroeconomic environment also requires a workforce that embraces and adapts to change. This means constantly upskilling staff. We seek to nurture and invest in the next generation of digital talent through our early talent programmes, graduate schemes, and internships. Splunk also has a 24/7 training platform in place that is designed to build confidence and foster lifelong learning.  

In your experience, what is the most important part of a working environment?

The atmosphere of a workplace is hugely important. Businesses need to ask themselves have they created a working environment that fosters creative and motivated employees, leading to better productivity? Or do employees constantly feel under pressure? And will employees perhaps show greater commitment if the atmosphere is better suited to their needs?

More than ever, businesses are pivoting to address these concerns. A more empathic management structure and greater flexibility over working hours, for example, can significantly increase employees’ willingness to perform and achieve.  

I want to ensure that employees have a chance to focus on their own well-being and progression. At my company, this comes through offering flexibility and a balanced approach to the workday.

How do you believe businesses can be intentional in creating a culture that supports women and underrepresented groups and promotes females in technology?

As a woman in the technology industry, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges, from encountering biases and outdated attitudes to being the “first woman in the room” in senior meetings. That is one of the reasons I am constantly seeking avenues to attract and retain a greater representation of women in technology. As data has demonstrated, women still only make up around a quarter of the global technology workforce and are notably underrepresented in leadership roles, with only 12 per cent of C-suite executives being women.

Businesses need to be intentional in creating a culture that supports women, but also ensure they have policies in place that support wider diverse groups of employees. Key to this effort is ensuring that a company’s talent systems are fair and equitable.

The technology industry has achieved a lot in recent years in terms of making employment relationships more flexible and providing platforms to harmonise career and family, but there is still a long way to go.

As a starting point, more time and input must be factored into the language that technology businesses use in job descriptions, highlighting the diversity and breadth of roles a company has to offer. This goes hand in hand with the need to be more accountable and proactive in hiring practices. As a data company, we have a clear responsibility to set and track progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion to try to prevent unconscious bias across our hiring and talent recruitment frameworks. There also need to be more programmes in place to support women who have taken career breaks or parental leave – for example, a training programme to reskill, regular mentorship, coaching, workshops, and networking opportunities.

We also need to consider early careers. Research from McKinsey shows that 31 per cent of young women who study tech-based subjects at school in Europe drop out of the pipeline before university. There is clearly a job to do in fostering the next generation of female talent in technology. Showcasing clear development and progression through early talent programmes, graduate schemes, and internships is important, as is promoting case studies of women who have had success within the technology industry and providing effective mentorship in STEM.  

The technology industry has achieved a lot in recent years in terms of making employment relationships more flexible and providing platforms to harmonise career and family, but there is still a long way to go.  

Have you ever had to manage generational divides and the stigma of flexible working amongst employees?

Many employees who began their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic have become increasingly comfortable with the virtual office, compared to more experienced colleagues who were working in the office five days a week pre-2019, and who value face-to-face collaboration.  

A 2023 study by the CIPD found that 63 per cent of millennials say flexible working is important to them, compared to 47 per cent of Gen X-ers and 38 per cent of baby boomers. Furthermore, 58 per cent of millennials have implemented flexible working arrangements, compared to 43 per cent of Gen X-ers and 33 per cent of baby boomers.

The pandemic accelerated the need for strong leaders that can inspire a hybrid workforce, and this is something I really focus on when engaging with teams across the region.  

And lastly, can you share your personal philosophy or definition of success as a leader? How does this philosophy guide your decision-making and leadership?

Culture-centric, resilient leadership is my recipe for success – when engaging both customers and employees. I also think it’s important to see failures as a platform for change and improvement. You learn from these moments, and it makes you a better leader. 

Executive Profile

Petra Jenner

Petra Jenner is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Splunk. Prior to Splunk, Jenner spent six years at Salesforce across a variety of roles in EMEA, most recently as General Manager, Senior Vice President responsible for Eastern Europe and Switzerland. Based in Munich and with more than 25 years in the technology industry, she has also held leadership roles with Microsoft, Checkpoint and Pivotal. Jenner holds a masters degree in Business and IT, and studied international management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Singapore. 


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